By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – Incoming Mayor Larry Hart challenged citizens to be a part of the development of the community during his comments Monday at the installation ceremony for city officials.
“It’s our community and if it is going to get done it is going to take us to do it,” Hart said after Mississippi Supreme Court Justice George C. Carlson, Jr., administered the oath of office to Water Valley officials.
Before his speech, Hart introduced the new board of Aldermen: Donald Gray, Alderman at Large; Bobby Cox, Ward 1; Fred White, Ward 2; Phillip Tallant, Ward 3; and Larry Bell, Ward 4. White, who has served since 1987, is the only incumbent.
He then introduced other city officials including Police Chief Mike King and City Clerk Vivian Snider. “We’ve asked John Crow to be our City Attorney, Judge Trent Howell to be our Judge. Our City Prosecutor is J. K. Ward. Our Public Defender is Andy Arant,” Hart continued.
Also on the program were local ministers David Freeman, Dr. Randy Bain, and Amos Sims. Ward and Arant were unable to attend.
Following the installation, Hart spoke for 22-minutes and outlined some of his plans for the next few years and addressed other issues facing residents.
“The greatest concern of any community is safety,” he said and pledged that he and the board are going to see to it that the city has adequate police and fire protection at all times.
Hart added that he would put back in place a program to buy a new police car every year. “And, this next year, we’re going to need to get a new fire truck to maintain our insurance rating to keep our insurance costs low.”
“Our court system is in good hands with Judge (Trent) Howell at the helm,” continued Hart. “We’re going to be fast on executing judgment and justice in the days that are ahead. We’ll become even more aggressive in our drug enforcement.”
“Administratively we’ve got a pretty good group of folks,” the new Mayor said as he named the office employees under City Clerk Vivian Snyder. “One of the things we are seeing is more automation, more computerization. It has become more and more necessary to have your city government automated to deal with Jackson and other places.”
Hart then turned his attention to the city departments starting with Streets and Sanitation. “We’re going to do a better job of maintaining our right-of-ways…a big, big job,” he said of the over 50 miles of streets.
“We’re going to get back to putting asphalt down on the surfaces. We got a little bit behind on that due to the rising costs of oil and petroleum products and thus asphalt.”
Hart said that many people have told him that there is a need to redo the water and sewer system. But, it is next to impossible to redo the whole thing because of the costs that he estimated would run into the millions. So, he said, maintenance of water and sewer is perpetual.
“We promise to you that we will always maintain a quality water system and have quality water for our city to consume, Hart said. “We want the good water coming to you and the bad water going away from you. And, that’s our goal.”
“Parks and Cemeteries have a tremendous job especially this time of year,” Hart said and added that grass cutting would be contracted to outside sources. He also said that the city would be developing more cemetery space over the next four years.
“We’re beginning to see some real usage of our city parks and we’ll continue to work with the Main Street organization and the Chamber of Commerce to continue to develop that usage.”
He said that the city would collaborate with the Water Valley Main Street Association to beautify and develop the downtown area.
Turning to the Electric Department, Hart recalled a conversation he had with a resident one Easter morning during his prior administration. “This lady asked me, ‘Do you know that this is Easter morning?’ I said, ‘Yes’m, I do.’”
The lady asked Hart if he knew that she had her whole family here from out of town. He responded that he didn’t know that. Then she asked if he knew the electricity was off. “And, I am standing there in the dark talking to her on the telephone and it’s very, very early. ‘Yes’m, I am keenly aware that we are out,’” Hart said.
“Well, you’d better do something about getting it back on,” he said the lady told him.
“You come to realize that you can’t do a whole lot without electricity. We are just a society that is geared to electricity. Thus, we pay particular attention to our electrical department.”
“We see that those boys are well trained,” Hart continued. “We see to it that our poles and lines – we call that our plant – are in good operating order. Some of the things you’ll see happening real soon is in the downtown area we are going to try to go underground with our electrical wiring.”
“I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but if you look around on the backside on Duncan Street or if you look up Wood Street from the drugstore you just see wire pollution. Wires everywhere…it’s not safe for the birds to fly.”
Hart touched on other areas of interest including the Crawford Sports Complex and the Casey Jones Railroad Museum. “Of all the things people in other communities have talked to me about is ‘how did y’all do it? How did y’all build that sports complex?’”
Hart said that city officials would continue to work on the creation of jobs. “Currently, the greatest opportunity for job development in any community in the United States of America is existing industry. That’s where the next jobs are going to grow.”
“We’ve got a lot to do and my board here is committed,” he added.
“We’ll all work together and with your help – and I want to solicit your help – cleaning up our community; cleaning up these lots that are vacant and abandoned and not cared for. If you own it, clean it up.”
As Hart ended his comments he turned and looked at the Aldermen and then said with a grin, “Just because I invited a Supreme Court Justice and three preachers to be on this program is no reflection on this board or this mayor.”
The new board met for the first time Tuesday night at 6:30, which is after the Herald’s press time.